Can DirectX-12 Give Mobile A Boot?

April 16, 2014 by admin  
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Microsoft announced DirectX 12 just a few days ago and for the first time Redmond’s API is relevant beyond the PC space. Some DirectX 12 tech will end up in phones and of course Windows tablets.

Qualcomm likes the idea, along with Nvidia. Qualcomm published an blog post on the potential impact of DirectX 12 on the mobile industry and the takeaway is very positive indeed.

DirectX 12 equals less overhead, more battery life

Qualcomm says it has worked closely with Microsoft to optimise “Windows mobile operating systems” and make the most of Adreno graphics. The chipmaker points out that current Snapdragon chipsets already support DirectX 9.3 and DirectX 11.  However, the transition to DirectX 12 will make a huge difference.

“DirectX 12 will turbocharge gaming on Snapdragon enabled devices in many ways. Just a few years ago, our Snapdragon processors featured one CPU core, now most Snapdragon processors offer four. The new libraries and API’s in DirectX 12 make more efficient use of these multiple cores to deliver better performance,” Qualcomm said.

DirectX 12 will also allow the GPU to be used more efficiently, delivering superior performance per watt.

“That means games will look better and deliver longer gameplay longer on a single charge,” Qualcomm’s gaming and graphics director Jim Merrick added.

What about eye candy?

Any improvement in efficiency also tends to have a positive effect on overall quality. Developers can get more out of existing hardware, they will have more resources at their disposal, simple as that.

Qualcomm also points out that DirectX 12 is also the first version to launch on Microsoft’s mobile operating systems at the same time as its desktop and console counterparts.

The company believes this emphasizes the growing shift and consumer demand for mobile gaming. However, it will also make it easier to port desktop and console games to mobile platforms.

Of course, this does not mean that we’ll be able to play Titanfall on a Nokia Lumia, or that similarly demanding titles can be ported. However, it will speed up development and allow developers and publishers to recycle resources used in console and PC games. Since Windows Phone isn’t exactly the biggest mobile platform out there, this might be very helpful and it might attract more developers.

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AMD, Intel & nVidia Go OpenGL

April 7, 2014 by admin  
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AMD, Intel and Nvidia teamed up to tout the advantages of the OpenGL multi-platform application programming interface (API) at this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC).

Sharing a stage at the event in San Francisco, the three major chip designers explained how, with a little tuning, OpenGL can offer developers between seven and 15 times better performance as opposed to the more widely recognised increases of 1.3 times.

AMD manager of software development Graham Sellers, Intel graphics software engineer Tim Foley and Nvidia OpenGL engineer Cass Everitt and senior software engineer John McDonald presented their OpenGL techniques on real-world devices to demonstrate how these techniques are suitable for use across multiple platforms.

During the presentation, Intel’s Foley talked up three techniques that can help OpenGL increase performance and reduce driver overhead: persistent-mapped buffers for faster streaming of dynamic geometry, integrating Multidrawindirect (MDI) for faster submission of many draw calls, and packing 2D textures into arrays, so texture changes no longer break batches.

They also mentioned during their presentation that with proper implementations of these high-level OpenGL techniques, driver overhead could be reduced to almost zero. This is something that Nvidia’s software engineers have already claimed is impossible with Direct3D and only possible with OpenGL (see video below).

Nvidia’s VP of game content and technology, Ashu Rege, blogged his account of the GDC joint session on the Nvidia blog.

“The techniques presented apply to all major vendors and are suitable for use across multiple platforms,” Rege wrote.

“OpenGL can cut through the driver overhead that has been a frustrating reality for game developers since the beginning of the PC game industry. On desktop systems, driver overhead can decrease frame rate. On mobile devices, however, driver overhead is even more insidious, robbing both battery life and frame rate.”

The slides from the talk, entitled Approaching Zero Driver Overhead, are embedded below.

At the Game Developers Conference (GDC), Microsoft also unveiled the latest version of its graphics API, Directx 12, with Direct3D 12 for more efficient gaming.

Showing off the new Directx 12 API during a demo of Xbox One racing game Forza 5 running on a PC with an Nvidia Geforce Titan Black graphics card, Microsoft said Directx 12 gives applications the ability to directly manage resources to perform synchronisation. As a result, developers of advanced applications can control the GPU to develop games that run more efficiently.

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Is AMD Worried?

March 17, 2014 by admin  
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AMD’s Mantle has been a hot topic for quite some time and despite its delayed birth, it has finally came delivered performance in Battlefield 4. Microsoft is not sleeping it has its own answer to Mantle that we mentioned here.

Oddly enough we heard some industry people calling it DirectX 12 or DirectX Next but it looks like Microsoft is getting ready to finally update the next generation DirectX. From what we heard the next generation DirectX will fix some of the driver overhead problems that were addressed by Mantle, which is a good thing for the whole industry and of course gamers.

AMD got back to us officially stating that “AMD would like you to know that it supports and celebrates a direction for game development that is aligned with AMD’s vision of lower-level, ‘closer to the metal’ graphics APIs for PC gaming. While industry experts expect this to take some time, developers can immediately leverage efficient API design using Mantle. “

AMD also told us that we can expect some information about this at the Game Developers Conference that starts on March 17th, or in less than two weeks from now.

We have a feeling that Microsoft is finally ready to talk about DirectX Next, DirectX 11.X, DirectX 12 or whatever they end up calling it, and we would not be surprised to see Nvidia 20nm Maxwell chips to support this API, as well as future GPUs from AMD, possibly again 20nm parts.

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Is China Mobile Good For Apple?

January 29, 2014 by admin  
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The tame Apple Press has enthusiastically been running storied about how well Apple is doing in China. Reuters for example has been saying that the one million pre-orders that Jobs’ Mob has just collected is a triumph for Tim Cook’s negotiating ability. Getting a deal out of China Mobile was something the sainted Steve Jobs could not manage.

However saner heads are urging caution, While it is true that launching its iPhone on China Mobile vast network on Friday, opening the door to the world’s largest carrier’s 763 million subscribers and giving its China sales a short-term jolt, it is not likely to last. For a start the deal could start a war which China Mobile would not want. Some analysts predicting a costly subsidy war as rival carriers compete to lure customers. If China Mobile does not make its targets on sales for these phones, they are going to increase the subsidies.

China Mobile’s iPhone sales are expected to reach 12 million in its 2014 fiscal year, but its subsidies will leap 57 percent to $7 billion. In addition, the prices are still really high for the Chinese market. For the basic 16GB iPhone 5S, with no subscriber contract, China Mobile is charging $870.

China Unicom and China Telecom slashed their iPhone prices by as much as $210 following the announcement that a deal had been struck between Apple and China Mobile. The pair have also offered a range of cut-price deals on contracts. But there are also some problems with the pre-orders. Reuters checks showed that there were multiple registrations using fake ID numbers which means that people are buying up hoping to make a swift buck on resales.

All this is the least of Apple’s Chinese worries. The outfit has fallen out of favour with consumers who are increasingly opting for domestic products. Those who want an iPhone do not need to pay excessively to get one through China mobile either. In China, you can buy handsets typically smuggled from Hong Kong and then sign up for a China Mobile contract. This is a swings and roundabouts for Apple. If people buy from China Mobile, they will not buy from Hong Kong so it will lose sales there. If they don’t then the China Mobile contract is rubbish.

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Will Businesses Accept The Chromebook?

January 3, 2014 by admin  
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Sales of Chromebooks enjoyed rapid growth,going from basically nothing in 2012 to more than 20 percent of the U.S. commercial PC market, analyst firm NPD reported, while Windows PCs and Macs remained flat at best.

NPD estimated that, throughout all of 2013, 14.4 million desktops, notebooks, and tablets were sold through U.S. commercial channels, typically resellers. That compares to 16.4 million PCs, overall, sold in the U.S. during the third quarter alone–excluding tablets, according to IDC. All told, about 46.2 million PCs have been sold in the U.S. during 2013, IDC found.

Within that segment, however, NPD reported some intriguing findings. Chromebooks, once largely the province of Acer and Samsung, have been embraced by Dell, HP, and others–not the least of which are paying customers. In 2012, Chromebook sales were “negligible,” NPD reported. But in the space of a single year, they climbed to 21 percent, NPD found, helping push overall notebook PC growth up by 28.9 percent.

Windows notebooks, however, contributed nothing to that, as NPD found that growth was flat. Worse still, Macs actually declined, with combined sales of desktops and notebooks falling by 7 percent. Windows tablet sales tripled, albeit off what NPD called “a very small base”.

The message? Businesses are turning to the Web, which Chromebooks almost exclusively run. And those low-cost, Net-focused devices are becoming engines of productivity. As a result, they’re receiving validation from traditional PC vendors including Acer, Asus, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard, plus Google’s own Pixel.

“The market for personal computing devices in commercial markets continues to shift and change,” saidA Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, in a statement.A “New products like Chromebooks, and reimagined items like Windows tablets, are now supplementing the revitalization that iPads started in personal computing devices. It is no accident that we are seeing the fruits of this change in the commercial markets as business and institutional buyers exploit the flexibility inherent in the new range of choices now open to them.”

Naturally, tablet sales continued to explode, capturing 22 percent(or about 3.16 million units) of all the computing device sales sold through the U.S. channel. Of all tablets sold commercially, iPads dominated with 59 percent of all unit sales, leaving the rest to Android (which grew more than 160 percent) and Windows.

Baker said that diversity will be key to the future success of hardware makers, a signpost for what vendors might release at 2014 and the weeks and months following.

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MediaTek’s Octa-Core Processor Tested

October 30, 2013 by admin  
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MediaTek raised quite a few eyebrows earlier this year when it announced it would build the world’s first proper ARM octa-core, not a big.LITTLE design. The MT6592 has now popped up on a Chinese site, with the first Antutu results.

It scored 25,496, which places it behind the 1.7GHz Snapdragon in the HTC One, but it’s still a lot faster than the Nexus 4’s Qualcomm APQ8064, although throttling may have something to do with that. The score seems too high, but not long after the results emerged, a number of mobile sites started talking about disappointing results, claiming that MediaTek’s octa-core was somehow supposed to end up on a par with Samsung’s latest Exynos 5 big.LITTLE chip and the Qualcomm 800.

This of course is utter rubbish and FUD of the highest order.

The 28nm MT6592 is indeed an octa-core, but it has eight A7 cores, not a combo of A15 and A7 cores. The A7 is about one fifth of the die area of an A15 and according to ARM it consumes one quarter to one fifth of the power, making such comparisons asinine. In other words, MediaTek’s octa-core should end up a lot smaller and cheaper than a quad A15, maybe even a quad A12. That is why we find the 25,496 result hard to believe – it should be less, not more. For example, the Tegra 4 on Shield hits about 36,000, yet it’s a much bigger chip, on a device with more RAM.

The benchmarked chip ran at 1.7GHz, but MediaTek said the MT6592 should have no trouble hitting 2GHz, which could make it faster than a Snapdragon 600. What’s more, the tested device featured 1GB of RAM, 720p display and a Mali-450 GPU, so it is clearly not high-end.

However, the big problem for MediaTek’s curious new SoC is the sheer number of cores. Most apps simply can’t put them to good use and unless MediaTek has a clever trick up its sleeve, the chip might not be nearly as fast in real world applications. It does look promising in benchmarks, though.

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AMD’s Richland Shows Up

September 26, 2013 by admin  
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Kaveri is coming in a few months, but before it ships AMD will apparently spice up the Richland line-up with a few low-power parts.

CPU World has come across an interesting listing, which points to two new 45W chips, the A8-6500T and the A10-6700T. Both are quads with 4MB of cache. The A8-6500T is clocked at 2.1GHz and can hit 3.1GHz on Turbo, while the A10-6700T’s base clock is 2.5GHz and it maxes out at 3500MHz.

The prices are $108 and $155 for the A8 and A10 respectively, which doesn’t sound too bad although they are still significantly pricier than regular FM2 parts.

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AMD’s Kaveri Coming In Q4

September 19, 2013 by admin  
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AMD really needs to make up its mind and figure out how it interprets its own roadmaps. A few weeks ago the company said desktop Kaveri parts should hit the channel in mid-February 2014. The original plan called for a launch in late 2013, but AMD insists the chip was not delayed.

Now though, it told Computerbase.de that the first desktop chips will indeed appear in late 2013 rather than 2014, while mobile chips will be showcased at CES 2014 and they will launch in late Q1 or early Q2 2014.

As we reported earlier, the first FM2+ boards are already showing up on the market, but at this point it’s hard to say when Kaveri desktop APUs will actually be available. The most logical explanation is that they will be announced sometime in Q4, with retail availability coming some two months later.

Kaveri is a much bigger deal than Richland, which was basically Trinity done right. Kaveri is based on new Steamroller cores, it packs GCN graphics and it’s a 28nm part. It is expected to deliver a significant IPC boost over Piledriver-based chips, but we don’t have any exact numbers to report.

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Dell Bets On Windows 8

September 16, 2013 by admin  
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Demand for Windows 8 may be still somewhat lukewarm, but Dell is maintaining its stance that it is the best operating system for business tablets and plans to roll out more Windows 8-based products later this year, according to a senior executive at the computer maker.

“Our Windows tablets are more secure and easier to manage than Android-based products and iOS-based products [because Windows is] on our tablets,” said Jeff Clarke, vice chairman and president of global operations at Dell. “And we are not going to change that.”

Windows-based devices accounted for just 4.5% of tablet sales in this year’s second quarter, according to research firm IDC. In comparison, Android-based devices had 62.6% of the tablet market and Apple’s iPad had 32.5%.

The slow adoption of Windows 8 tablets is partly due to their high prices, and to the operating system’s lack of mobile apps, analysts say. Windows 8 has also received mixed reviews, with some people citing its lack of a Start button in the desktop mode as a major problem.

But Dell expects demand for Windows 8 devices to pick up with the availability of Windows 8.1, which Microsoft will release in October.

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Apple To Acquire Embark

September 3, 2013 by admin  
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Apple is reportedly purchasing mapping app developer Embark, in a move that could lend more real-time navigation features for public transit to Apple’s own Maps app.

The acquisition, which was first reported by tech journalist Jessica Lessin, follows other recent mapping purchases for Apple: HopStop, another maker of apps for public transit directions; and Locationary, which provides data about local businesses; and WifiSLAM, an indoor location and mapping company.

Apple did not directly confirm its acquisition of Embark, but in an emailed statement said, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Apple declined to comment further on the deal.

Apple has faced some serious challenges over the past year in providing a consistently solid mapping product with its Maps app. Last September Apple CEO Tim Cook was forced to publicly apologize for a series of issues plaguing the company’s Maps app in Apple’s iOS 6 operating system.

Embark is a company based in the San Francisco Bay Area that makes a mobile mapping app designed to help people navigate mass transit systems. The company’s app provides “tailored trips” specific to the user’s region, along with notifications for late-running trains and other advisories and closures.

Embark’s technology, if it does find its way into a future Apple product, could enhance Apple’s mapping products and make the company a stronger competitor to rivals like Google. Google’s Maps app already offers real-time public transit navigation features, as do some smaller players like iTransitBuddy.

Embark’s app is available for free on the iPhone for 10 transit systems including Boston’s MBTA, Chicago’s L, the New York City Subway and San Francisco’s Bart and Caltrain systems, with more on the way, according to Embark’s website.

It is not clear whether Embark’s app will be shut down as part of the acquisition. The app was still available in Apple’s App Store at the time of this article’s posting.

Embark’s team could not be immediately reached to comment on the deal.

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